Include These Four Change Ability Factors in Your Next Project

change management project management Apr 05, 2022
Understanding Change Ability Factors to help you deliver successful change initiatives

During a recent podcast episode of Great Practices entitled Changes and How to Manage them with your PMO, Larry Mohl, Chief Transformation Officer at Rali, shared the change management framework he has been assembling for decades. He highlighted four Change Ability factors from this framework that greatly improve the chances a project will achieve its desired result.

Why is this important? Larry called out the startling fact that 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their desired expectation. To keep your projects out of that dismal percentage group, be mindful of the Change Ability factors important to each phase.

Initiation Phase

Phase 1 is the Initiation phase of managing change within a project. Two key factors that need to be present during this phase are:

  • Directional Commitment - This is about creating clarity, by asking and answering questions about why this project is being undertaken and what’s going to be different. Ensure there are answers to questions such as: Why are we doing this? What’s the compelling business case? Are there process shifts? How will it impact people? It’s surprising how often the assumption is that people know these answers, when the reality is they can’t tell you.

    Something else to make sure of is that everyone understands this is a priority for both the company and individuals. Change will not happen if individuals don’t support or know about the change, regardless of how much of a priority it is for the company. Survey stakeholders to know what they are thinking; are they positive, neutral, or negative about the change? Then, work on changing those attitudes as needed.

  • Rational Progress - This is all about early wins. Are people seeing the new things they can do now that this project is complete? Do they see how this new way of doing things aligns them with the future versus the past? The payoff for going through the discomfort caused by change needs to be obvious early on.

    Take it one step further and provide feedback mechanisms such as focus groups, surveys, and Town Halls where people can feel they are involved in conversations that shape the future. Make sure individuals and teams have necessary tools such as Training, to help remove as many barriers as possible. Things don’t have to be perfect at this point, but everyone does need to see progress and feel like they are being heard.

That’s a lot of ground to cover in the Initiate phase, but, being aware of the activities needed to initiate the change, and including them in the project plan, will help get your project off on the right foot.

Sustain Phase

Now that your project is off to a good start, the change still has a high probability of not succeeding unless you focus on the Change Ability factors critical to the Sustain phase. These are: 

  • Emotional Engagement - This is where people can start to feel like they are either connected or disconnected to the change. People analyze whether or not what leadership said would be the benefit of the change is indeed coming true. They begin to assess whether their personal investment in the change is worth it, if they feel they are contributing to the impact of the change, or, if they are just a bystander watching it happen.

    If you can help people feel emotionally invested in and positive about a change, it will fuel the inspiration they need to overcome the obstacles that are inevitably going to come their way.

  • Organization Alignment - Another Change Ability factor of sustaining change is to understand the environment in which it happens. Most people accept change best within the context of their team and manager. In other words, people will make changes personally based upon what they feel they have permission and acceptance to change. Managers that understand this dynamic (and project managers that help managers understand) can provide both a High Challenge and High Support environment to get through the change together and make it stick.

    Backing it all up is top management, who said the change needed to take place. Are they visible and supportive of the change? Are they approachable or are there multiple layers of management to get through before someone can ask a question or offer suggestions?

What’s interesting about Mohl’s Change Ability factors is that they are not linear. Project Managers like things to be linear, but change is messy and it’s hard to apply a linear thought process on top of a non-linear dynamic. To be effective, you’ll find yourself bouncing around in each phase, making sure your project plan includes the tools, processes, and messages necessary to provide managers and employees what they need to succeed.

Ultimately, adapting these four factors to your own change management framework will help tilt the scales so that 70%+ of your projects achieve their desired expectation!